Ha! And you thought you were lonely before the pandemic hit? This may be the most unconventional Valentine’s Day yet and Gallery 1313’s annual Sex Show appears once again to lift spirits while simultaneously addressing contemporary issues on sex and intimacy. Gallery 1313 explains that the pandemic has had a large impact on dating, hook-ups, and long-term relationships, which have been strained further than ever. The show is eclectic, with Gallery 1313 prefacing that Hi Libido takes on subjects ranging from sexual politics, to humorous pieces, to scientific works, to bondage, and to just about everything in a range of mediums including photography, painting, drawing, and more.
Craig Mahood’s Functional Bathroom Erotica is an operating urinal shaped like a man with his legs over his head, his face in a blissful expression. When I first saw this work, I immediately thought of Marcel Duchamp’s famous work Fountain, 1917 which is a urinal positioned alternately so that it no longer has its original use and then given a signature and a name. Mahood’s urinal has additional sculpted elements and is fully functional, which is the opposite of Duchamp’s work, but both artists seem to be using the concept of the readymade where ordinary objects are selected and modified, becoming art. Mahood reveals, “I have always enjoyed taking mundane functional objects that are easily taken for granted and giving them a new life”.
Craig Mahood, Functional Bathroom Erotica
When describing the works Come Over and What Can You Do To Me, the artist, Kristen Stephen, points out that lust can intensify the sexual experience. In her black and white silhouette photographs she captures shadows of the female body where the viewer can imagine possible scenarios. When viewing these photographs, I thought of the shadow and how it is an anonymous state, not showing the details of someone’s face. This format could easily cater to the gaze and the objectification of women, giving the work more layers.
Kristen Stephen, Come Over, black and white photograph., 8″ x 10″
Diana Rosa’s artworks immediately catch the eye with her bold style and vibrant colors. Rosa writes that she “employed a Naïve Folk-Art style to explore questions of identity, love, relationship and environment in our society”. Fruit Connection’s merging of bodies and symbolic use of fruits creates a visually stimulating piece. It is important to remember that the painting goes further than what is represented physically, she tells us “I think of my drawings as portraits of a soul, not an actual person–pulling from the universal level instead of our clouded worldly view”.
Diana Rosa, Fruit Connection, acrylic on canvas, 32″ x 32″
Phillip Hare’s phallic mixed media works are on the lighter side of the art in this show. The forms are made of buttons, which are fitting as they are the trinkets that hold together and open up clothing, with the outline filled with googly eyes that look back at you with wide eyes. Hare explains that the work was inspired when the British Columbia CDC recommended using glory holes to reduce COVID transmission in July 2020. At first, the suggestion is laughable but given another moment’s thought, you can’t deny it makes sense.
Philip Hare, Glory Hole II, 2021, mixed media, 10” x 12”
The next surprise is a photograph of a giant set of shiny, plushie handcuffs. Naomi Brenneck says, “I use humor and exaggeration in many of my pieces to soften the sometimes-jarring concept and make it an enjoyable object to look at”. By making an ordinary object comically large, one’s attention to it changes and, as the artist confirms, she uses this approach in art in order to promote sexual education and positivity, LGBTQ+ rights, and mental health issues.
Naomi Brenneck, Stuffed Handcuffs
This show left me wanting one thing – more photos. One is provided for each work but for me this was not enough to be able to fully drink in the details, making me pull my eyebrows together and crane my neck towards the screen.
Gallery 1313 stated that they hoped the show would cause a smile or a chuckle – and in this way Hi Libido is successful. The online exhibition’s range of artists and themes makes this show intriguing and surprising, leaving one feeling amused while also opening up discourse on broader topics and issues.
Images are courtesy of Gallery 1313 and the artists
*Exhibition information: Hi Libido, online group exhibition, February 3 – March 2021, celebrating Valentine’s Day, Gallery 1313.